NBA Draft Prep: Joel Embiid

Ed Zurga

How far will Joel Embiid's foot injury drop him in the NBA draft tonight?

Joel Embiid quickly shot up the recruiting rankings the year before he arrived at Kansas. Fortunately, Bill Self got in on him early and was able to get him to Lawrence.

Embiid came to Kansas as a developmental project, expected to spend at least two years in Lawrence as Bill Self worked on developing Embiid into a potential NBA draft lottery pick. After half a season, he was #1 on a lot of scouts draft boards. Unfortunately, a broken foot during workouts last week combined with the back issues he had in March may cause Joel to slide a bit.

Let’s take a look at Embiid and see what’s up and where he’s going.

Measurables (Depending on where you look)

Height w/ shoes – 7’0"

Weight – 240

Wingspan – 7’5"

Basic Per Game Stats

GP – 28

Min – 23.1

Pts – 11.2

Reb – 8.1

FG% - 62.6

2P% - 63.9

3P% - 20.0

FT% - 68.5

Asst – 1.4

Stl – 0.9

Blk – 2.6

TO – 2.4

PF – 3.4

Strengths

Offense – When healthy, Embiid was a go-to option for Bill Self’s offense. He displayed an advanced array of moves with his back to the rim – jump hooks (with both hands), turnaround jumpers, up-and-unders, and even spin moves. And don’t forget the "Dream Shake" in the New Mexico game. He is also excellent while facing the rim, scoring regularly on put-back and alley-oops, making 76.3 percent of his attempts at the rim (per Hoop-Math.com). He was excellent at drawing fouls and hit his free throws at a near 70 percent rate. When teams began to double-team him in the post, he quickly adapted (albeit after struggling initially) and displayed excellent passing ability. Embiid doesn’t panic when double-teamed and sets solid screens.

Defense – Embiid’s towering defensive upside is what really separates him in this draft. There isn’t really any other player in the draft (aside from possibly Wiggins) who is capable of a high level two-way impact. Embiid is an active and aggressive weak-side defender who can cover a lot of ground with his length and huge strides. He alters a number of shots and is generally disruptive.

Physical tools – Similar to Wiggins, this is what NBA execs love about Embiid. He has a prototypical body for an NBA center, and once he gets into an NBA training regimen, will be able to handle putting on the extra muscle needed night in and night out in the NBA. He is also extremely agile and mobile for his size with nimble feet, good speed, great quickness, and vertical explosiveness. With only three years of organized basketball under his belt, scouts love not only his potential but how quickly he is realizing that potential.

Weaknesses

Durability – Obviously, this is the biggest question mark. Embiid will be out 4-6 months with the broken foot he suffered last week, which should put his availability anywhere from November to January. He missed one game at Kansas due to a knee injury, then played the next four games, then was held out for the rest of the year with a stress fracture in his lower back. It has also been reported that he dealt with lower back issues in high school. It may be difficult for an NBA GM to take the plunge on a big man with back issues.

Fouls – Joel averaged an incredible 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes while at Kansas. Scouts say this is due to focusing too much on the ball and losing track of his man, which indicates a lack of defensive awareness.

Conclusion

Without the broken foot, I have no doubt that Joel Embiid would be the consensus #1 pick. NBA Hall of Fame caliber centers don’t come along very often. NBADraft.net and most other scouting reports I’ve seen compare Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwan and Tim Duncan.

Nobody in this draft class offers more upside than Embiid, not even Andrew Wiggins. He is a game-changer on both ends of the floor. When Embiid went down with his injuries, Kansas went down with him, losing three of their final six games. Hopefully as he gets stronger physically, he won’t break down as easily and will make a few NBA GM’s regret their 2014 draft decisions.

According to most sources, Cleveland and Milwaukee have both said that they are not interested in Embiid after the foot injury. Where he is selected in the draft will come down to private workouts and medical examinations, not to mention a GM’s risk tolerance. Reports are that several teams have called teams ahead of them in the draft, looking to trade up for a shot at Embiid. Any of the teams with the 3 through 7 picks are potential landing spots for Joel (Sixers, Magic, Jazz, Celtics, Lakers). It’s said that even if he were to somehow be passed over by all of those teams, there’s no way the Kings will let him go past the #8 pick.

I honestly expect that Embiid will go #3 to the Sixers, who own two lottery picks and can afford to take a flyer on a guy like Joel.

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